Wow, I didn’t think they were still making these boats!” A visitor to the fleet’s Opua dock exclaimed as he cast an eye over the recentlyrelaunched Davidson M20 Carnival.

While many of her age have been confined to the scrap heap of unloved vessels, the recycled Carnival should be good to keep sailing for a least another 40 years.

When she and her sister ships were launched back in 1974, bareboat charter was an alien concept. It was this design – the Davidson M20 – that kicked off the first ‘sail yourself’ charter yacht operation in the South Pacific – Rainbow Yacht Charters. It grew over the next 25 years to become the South Pacific’s largest bareboat operation.

When the then Ministry of Transport struggled to define a list of standards and requirements for bareboat charter, it decided to apply those used on ferries. The fibreglass hull had to be extra thick, all fittings upgraded – and lifelines raised to become fences.

A testament to those exacting standards is the fact that these hulls, while extremely heavy, have withstood significant use and are still sailing proudly in the Bay of Islands. The owners – Bill and Julie Kidman – purchased the Sailing School and Hire Boat operation Great Escape in December 2017 and since then have invested heavily in upgrading and renovating the fleet. Carnival is the first to be completed.


In recent years cruising boats have grown in size, with chart plotters, hot showers, USB charging ports and full multi-media entertainment seemingly mandatory requirements. But there’s a growing enthusiasm for rolling back to a simpler form of cruising. The M20 certainly fits the bill – none of the modern essentials, but everything you need for a comfortable week afloat.